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Schools mark county growth
Oct 31, 2012 4:00 pm
Wilson County needs more than $343.9 million worth of existing school improvements and new public school constructions, according to a new report.
The figure includes projects that state and local officials anticipated being needed between 2010-15, as of July 2010.
To be included in the inventory, infrastructure projects must not be considered normal maintenance and must involve a capital cost of at least $50,000.
The figure included in the report, however, does not differentiate projects that have been completed since July 2010, such as the recently opened Lebanon High School.
According to Mickey Hall, deputy director of Wilson County Schools, the district has invested over $300 million in constructions since 1993 and plans to invest $325-$340 million in construction within the next 8-10 years.
“The goal is to meet growth and try to get rid of portables,” said Hall. “Before we started this current building phase, we had 52 portables.”
The district is currently planning renovations and an addition at West Wilson Middle School, which will increase student capacity by 450-500 students. An addition at West Elementary will increase student capacity by 350-400 students.
A building adjacent to Rutland Elementary is planned to accommodate pre-kindergarten through second grade, increasing capacity by 650-700 students.
These projects, combined with the new Watertown High School building planned for completion in 2014, increases the district’s student capacity by about 2,600 students, according to Hall.
“It shows the [school] boards and the county’s commitment to education,” said Hall. “We’re going to house our kids correctly in a safe learning environment.”
A referendum-approved sales tax increase of three-quarters of 1 cent in 1993 has helped fund school constructions, and the county has also issued bonds that will be paid back through debt service, according to Hall.
These school constructions have been necessary to accommodate the county’s rapid growth, said Hall.
Wilson County’s population increased from 88,809 in 2000 to 113,993 in 2010 – an increase of more than 28 percent – according to U.S. Census figures.
Between 2000-10, Wilson County Schools’ student population increased from 11,526 to 15,408 – an increase of more than 33 percent, and Lebanon Special School District’s student population increased from 2,819 to 3,327 – an increase of 18 percent, according to the report, “Building Tennessee’s Tomorrow: Anticipating the State’s Infrastructure Needs,” from the Tennessee Advisory Committee on Intergovernmental Relations.
“Even with the economy as it was, we saw growth,” said Hall.
Hall said he anticipates this type of growth will continue.
“We will see new school buildings in our county for years to come,” said Hall. “We don’t see us slowing down anytime soon.”
Staff writer Sara McManamy-Johnson can be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 16 or email@example.com.